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Chapter 21


Across the County Line

The rural area of Hanover Township in Cook County east of Elgin was once the location of a number of disorderly houses. Because they were outside the city limits, they were immune from interference by the city police department and too far away to interest the sheriffs office in Chicago. Even when evidence was gathered, authorities failed to prosecute.

As early as 1878 there was a reference in the Advocate to "one of the soiled doves from the Cook County 'seminary' just east of the city." She may have been a resident of what the Hanover census taker described two years later as a hotel with a bartender and women boarders. Whatever else they may have been doing, it was generally agreed that their patrons and inmates were noisy. In 1881 the Advocate complained that gangs of roughs at one place along Poplar Creek "make the midnight air resound with their profane remarks." The same year the St. Charles Chronicle reported: "A brace of virgins (?) from the 'Popple Creek' neighborhood, Elgin, were in town on Saturday last, and gave an exhibition of fast-driving, loud and vulgar talk, low-lived flirtations, and drunkenness."

At a special meeting in 1895, the Elgin City Council formally petitioned Cook County authorities to refuse a liquor license to a place called Annie's. The aldermen alleged it was frequented by a class of people who "create breaches of the peace by singing, shouting, and insulting citizens on the road to, and into, and through" Elgin. The righteous pointed with scorn to these dens of iniquity, ignoring the fact that most of the patronage came from Elgin. Local newspapers often titillated their readers with suggestive accounts of the Hanover resorts. One of these was the old, old story of a father finding his daughter in one of them and taking her away in time to bid farewell to her dying mother. One tale was shockingly different. When a young Elgin girl took refuge in a Hanover house of ill fame, investigators discovered she had the full and hearty consent of her mother.

After the turn of the century the business was concentrated at two establishments about a half-mile apart on what is now Highway 19. When his employees arrived from Chicago at an Elgin depot, Snowie, one of the proprietors, would meet them in a large open carriage and drive them about town to allow prospective customers to inspect the offerings. A report submitted to the Cook County state's attorney described Jurs' place as sitting back among the trees and garishly lighted. In 1916 Jurs was shot twice and seriously wounded by a patron over a woman inmate named Rose. The assailant was in turn shot by the victim's son as be was backing out of the door.

Whatever became of sin in Hanover? Although it lingered for a time in the form of a drive-in theater showing X-rated movies, it disappeared entirely when the township was carved into suburban subdivisions.

The Buckrice Case

John Buckrice in 1878 erected a brick Central Hotel next to the hay market on East Chicago Street. He described it as "first class in all respects," and offered his guests a good stable and a sample room full of choice wines, liquors and cigars. The rate for a room was only $1 per day; board for a week was $4. The building, renamed the Elgin Hotel, remained standing until 1969, when it was razed with the old City Hall for a parking lot.

When Buckrice platted a 10-acre subdivision in the southeast end, he named two of its principal streets, Harrison and Cleveland, after the candidates in the 1888 presidential election. It was not as a hotel proprietor or subdivider, however, that this German-born immigrant achieved his notoriety in Elgin and his niche in legal history. Selling his hotel, in 1883 he built a large, two-story roadhouse along what is now the north side of Highway 20, just across Poplar Creek in Cook County.

Its bar alone was said to have cost $1,000, and he later added a race track and bowling alley. Situated just outside the city limits and far from any close supervision by Cook County officials, Buckrice's provided Elgin's sporting gentry with a number of pleasures forbidden by state law, city ordinance, and biblical injunction. The resort became so popular that Elgin livery horses were said to run out to his place and home again without any guidance.

"It is one of the unfortunate things for Elgin," bewailed the Daily News, "that she happens to be located so near the Cook County line. Violations of the law that can't be punished by our authorities have been and are encouraged."

The outrage of Elgin's righteous found a remedy in state legislation that allowed liquor law violators within 100 rods of a county line to be prosecuted in either county. Buckrice was charged with a number of transgressions, including the sale of liquor on Sundays. He was indicted by a Kane County grandjury and tried and convicted in the Kane County Circuit Court.

Backed by his liberty-loving clientele, John Buckrice appealed the decision. On May 19, 1884, the Illinois Supreme Court (Buckrice v. People, 110 Ill.29) reversed his conviction on the grounds that the state law was unconstitutional. Accused persons, ruled the court, have the right to a trial by an impartial jury of the county or district in which the offense is alleged to have been committed. A crowd of 400 to 500 men gathered at Buckrice's to celebrate the victory in a manner appropriate to his establishment. The Germania band furnished the music.

John Buckrice sold the place in 1887 and not long afterward it was destroyed by fire. Mourners, seeking a surviving drop or two of the huge inventory, poked around the charred ruins for several days.

Cook and Kane

Elgin was the first major city in Illinois to expand across a county line. With the proliferation of suburbs in recent years, there are now more than two dozen communities in the six county metropolitan area that overlap county boundaries.

The original city limits in 1854 consisted of four square miles centered at what is now Fountain Square, and they were soon extended to the eastern limits of Kane County. In 1889 a new municipal cemetery was opened along Bluff City Boulevard in Cook County, but it wasn't until the Elgin Heights industrial and residential subdivision was projected in 1891 that the city's boundaries were moved into Cook. The annexation of a portion of Hanover Township encompassed the new cemetery, much of what is now Lords Park, and Elgin Heights. These areas also became a part of the school district.

Elgin's location in two counties has created some confusion over the years. The city was situated in different state legislative and congressional districts. The boundaries of the Gail Borden Public Library were originally confined to Elgin Township. Until the library became a special district which extended into Hanover Township in 1974, it could not serve city residents in Cook County unless they paid a fee.

Some attorneys questioned the jurisdiction of the old Elgin City court, dissolved in 1964, because of the county overlap. Problems also developed with a variance in real estate assessment practices between Kane and Cook counties. There are two different court circuits, two different sales tax schedules and gasoline taxes, and two different places to report the results of general elections. Elgin was also located in different sanitary (now water reclamation) districts until the Cook unit was disannexed in 1959.

Prospective brides and grooms often became aware of the dividing line at the last minute. They either secured a Kane County license for a wedding in a church located in Cook County, or they obtained a Cook County license for a marriage in Kane. Because it overlies both counties, more than one impromptu wedding has taken place in Lords Park with birds in the trees for witnesses. On one occasion, in 1907, the groom bought the license in Chicago, where he worked. The Elgin clergyman, after informing him that the license was invalid in Kane, conducted the service in the more quiet and secluded surroundings of the Bluff City Cemetery.

Detaching the western townships of Cook County and adding them to Kane was an often proposed solution to the complexities of life in a city in two counties. As early as 1853 the state legislature enacted a law providing for the annexation of Hanover, Barrington, Palatine and Schaumburg townships to Kane County providing a majority of voters in both counties approved. Apparently no elections on the question were held. The idea was discussed by the Elgin Association of Commerce as late as 1949 and 1953, but no action was taken.

There were relatively few Cook County residents of Elgin for many years; as recently as 1940 there were only 591. The Cook County side of Elgin was the fasted growing area of the city between 1970 and 1980, its population rising from 5,347 to 11,020, more than one-sixth of the city's total residents. Besides major housing developments, Lords Park and Bluff City Cemetery, this section now includes Elgin High School and two elementary schools, Mount Hope Cemetery, the National and American Little League grounds, the U. S. Can and Elgin Sweeper industrial plants, several churches, and all of the city's new car dealerships.

You can go to the middle of Cookane Avenue and stand astride two counties if you are so inclined. It is one of the many fascinating things to do in Elgin.

School Districts

An understanding of what happened in the past may explain how a recent dilemma evolved, although hind-sigbt doesn't necessarily provide a solution. Take for example, the question, "Why are communities split by school district boundaries?" One instance of this is the commercial development on the former airport land. It lies within the city of Elgin, but the property taxes are paid to the Dundee-Carpentersville District 300, not District U-46.

On January 1, 1947, Kane County had 93 school districts. There were 33 small one-teacher schools, ranging in number of pupils per school from seven in one building to 32 in another. With the aim of expanding educational opportunities at lower costs per pupil, the state forced the small districts to combine enrollments or be annexed to a larger contiguous district. Failure to merge meant a loss of state funding. Kane County ended up with nine districts. Elgin's U-46 absorbed 22 complete or partial districts, expanding in area from about eight square miles to 90 square miles.

The consolidation movement was substantially completed in the early 1950s before the great increase in population on the western edge of the metropolitan area. Farm land was subdivided into housing projects, new towns were created, and existing communities grew. As a result the boundaries of cities and villages no longer coincided with those of the school districts.

This explains why the majority of students in Carpentersville attend Dundee-Crown High School, but some attend high school in Barrington, while some students who live in Barrington Hills attend Dundee-Crown. The far east side of the city of Aurora, including the Fox Valley shopping center, now lies in a school district centered in Naperville. Hanover Park sends students to three high schools in two separate districts. The westward
expansion of Elgin will send students who live in the city to schools in District 301, the Burlington -Plato Center district.

Boundaries can be adjusted by the regional board of school trustees, which conducts hearings upon receipt of a petition for a proposed change. The trustees' decision, in the words of the law, "shall take into consideration the division of funds and assets which will result from the change of boundaries and shall determine whether it is to the best interests of the schools of the area and the educational welfare of the pupils...@

Most petitions for detachment have been denied. Even if conflicts of vested interest could be resolved, any major realignment of what are now old school district boundaries to conform to the more recent limits of municipalities would entail enormous financial and personnel adjustments. And so history, what happened in the past, sets limits on what can be achieved in the present.


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